Nine Belgian citizens are taking their regional authorities to court over air pollution, NGO ClientEarth announced Monday.
The regional governments of Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels have put residents’ health at risk by failing to adapt air pollution laws in response to new World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, the claimants argue.
“The Belgian authorities are exposing people to levels of air pollution that are up to four times higher than scientists have deemed is acceptable to breathe,” ClientEarth said in a statement.
According to the claimants — most of whom suffer from respiratory health issues — this constitutes a breach of “their fundamental right to breathe clean and healthy air and puts their and their children’s health at unnecessary risk.”
The European Commission is expected to unveil a revision of EU air quality guidelines on Wednesday, with the aim of aligning its rules more closely with the latest recommendations from the WHO, which tightened its air quality guidelines last year.
Belgian authorities shouldn’t be waiting for EU action to tighten air quality rules, the claimants say.
“EU countries can’t use the European Commission’s decision to review the bloc’s air quality laws as an excuse not to take prompt action themselves,” said Irmina Kotiuk, a lawyer at ClientEarth. “We know that new [EU] air quality thresholds will take years to agree and even longer to implement.”
The lawsuit comes several weeks after seven claimants launched a similar case in Germany.
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